Sunday, 3 January 2010

Pandemonium as Obama walks in the footsteps of the Head of School

I had one of those strange feelings today – you know it’s like the simple tickle of excitement that comes when you first fall in love or experience something totally unexpected and inexplicable. Partly this feeling came from reading the story of how the the Chinese government has announced that as a first step in the process of calling in the United State’s debt of approximately $800 billion, it will repossess the National Zoo’s giant panda cub. In a masterful and inscrutable sense of understatement, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ambassador in New York said:

“We will credit America $5 million dollars for the panda, which means the US only has $799.995 billion left to go.”

The US National Zoo learned that the panda, four-year-old Tai Shan, one of fourteen such animals living in zoos across the US, will be leaving for China asap. It appears that even the offspring are forever the property of China. However, it wasn’t the pandas that caused the excitement it was watching a film clip of President Obama gently strolling on the same part of the Great Wall of China I had been on several months before. Regular readers of this blog will understand where I am coming from here (for the rest of you, see my blog for the 29th August 2009). I know when I stood on the Great Wall, the sense of history of all those people who had been there before me was almost tangible.

Pandas aside, China will be a major feature of the Schools future, not only in the forthcoming year but for some years to come. 2010 is likely to be the first of what is going to be a number of challenging years for the School. The challenges will come from many sources both internal and external to the School. The most powerful of these drivers for change arise as consequences of the current economic recession. The notion of ‘flat cash’ has entered our lexicon.

An uncomplicated explanation of this phenomenon is that the very best the School is likely to receive in terms of its main income will be no more than we received last year. Against this static income, will be the inevitable rises in real costs for the School. Of course, the worst case scenario is that our income will be reduced because we either cannot recruit students or retain them. Against this backdrop of fiscal uncertainty are other changes, including a sustained reduction in the overall commission numbers for pre-registration students, the move to an all graduate profession and a move to National Bench Mark Pricing as the means of calculating the Schools income for pre-registration nurse education and training.

I remain very confident in our abilities as a School. Our collective knowledge, creativity and above all else, our commitment to what we believe in has set a high achievement benchmark for the many other Schools of Nursing. Our Institute of Nursing heuristic is alive and well in my heart.

In last weeks blog I wrote about a couple of books I have been involved in. Despite trying hard not to do anything except eat, drink and be merry over the past week, I have taken a couple hours to tidy up another chapter for a new book due out in the summer of 2010. This is a chapter that explores the notion of resilience, and whether such resilience can be taught or better caught. Resilience is a precious attribute. I believe it is better caught than taught, but we can learn how to better protect ourselves from the emotionality of what it we do in practice, in our contact with students, and in our dealings with the challenges posed by our University in these turbulent times. Individually, and as we work in our Directorates and the School as a whole, we will all need to develop our own strategies for staying resilient. Helping and caring for and with others is what we are good at doing – we just have to remember to include each other in providing this support.

The Financial Times in its report yesterday about New Year resolutions observed that those individuals who didn’t make any resolutions were likely to remain mentally healthier, as there was no danger of feeling a failure! As this is the first blog in the new year of 2010, and unlike the FT, I hope all the blog's readers are able to achieve whatever dream, hope or resolution they set out to do over the next 12 months.